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How to Survive the March 3rd United-Continental Merger

How to Survive the March 3rd United-Continental Merger

On March 3, the new MileagePlus program consolidates and replaces the current Continental OnePass and United MileagePlus programs.

Most of the consolidation of the two programs will happen automatically, behind the scenes. But not all of it. And as with any large-scale computer project that involves the merging and purging and modifying of tens of millions of records, there’s the potential for niggling lapses if not outright mayhem.

Here’s what you need to know, and do, to guarantee a smooth transition.

Membership Account Numbers & Passwords

Current 11-digit MileagePlus account numbers will be retired in favor of OnePass eight-character numbers. If you have both United and Continental accounts, your OnePass number automatically replaces your United number in the new program. If you have no OnePass account, you will be issued a new eight-character MileagePlus number to replace your current one.

Passwords linked to your OnePass or MileagePlus accounts will remain the same, unless you have accounts in both programs. In that case, when the accounts are merged, the MileagePlus password will automatically replace your OnePass password.


"A one-time grant of MileagePlus award miles equivalent to your OnePass reward miles balance will be added to your MileagePlus account. We will do the same with elite qualifying activity and upgrades."

In other words, on March 3, OnePass and MileagePlus miles will be consolidated in a single MileagePlus account.

If you have not manually linked your accounts, the consolidation should take place automatically. The "should" is important here because the two accounts can only be combined if the member information is sufficiently alike in both accounts to trigger a merge. If you use different names (William in one, Bill in the other, for example) or have different mailing addresses in the two accounts, they may not auto-combine.

Credit Cards

If you have either a OnePass or a MileagePlus credit card from Chase, there’s no need to do anything.

While your OnePass credit card account statements will henceforth refer to it as a United MileagePlus Explorer card, you can continue using the current OnePass card until it’s actually replaced by a MileagePlus-branded card "no later than September 2012."

If you have both the OnePass Plus MasterCard and the MileagePlus Explorer Visa cards, you will have two MileagePlus Explorer cards post-merger, a MasterCard and a Visa. You can retain one and cancel the other, or keep both.

Elite Status

Elite members will receive benefits linked to the new 2012 Premier program beginning on March 3.

Status will be based on elite-qualifying activity in both your OnePass and MileagePlus accounts.

Checks and Balances

Here’s what to do on or after March 3 to ensure you survive the cut-over with all your miles and elite perks intact:

  • Check your account to confirm that miles from your OnePass and MileagePlus accounts have been properly consolidated. And verify that you have been granted proper elite status as well.
  • Check your account details to ensure your contact information is current. (When accounts are merged, the most recent street address will be retained, and email address on file with MileagePlus will replace the one in your OnePass profile.)
  • Check outstanding reservations to confirm old MileagePlus numbers have been auto-replaced with new ones.
  • Check your earning preferences with any hotel or rental car programs to be sure that your new MileagePlus number is in place if you wish to earn United miles.

Reader Reality Check

How has the transition been for you? Any problems?

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  • John C

    How does this affect Currently, you can move miles in and out of OnePass but not MileagePlus.

  • Steve

    Well, despite all the planning, it has pretty much been Chaos all weekend long!

  • Nebular Novice

    They still use the old Mileage Plus numbers on MP Dining.

  • MMH

    3+ hours on hold last night to cancel and re-book some flights that were too complicated to do online! The reservation agent we finally got was very good but amazed that United wasn’t more prepared for this transition.

  • LCR

    Noticed that now mileage accurals are different. For example, LAX to BOS non-stop was 2611 miles. Now it is 2604.

  • Joseph C

    20 years ago United with some fanfare awarded me LIFETIME Premier Exec status and said the benefits included 100% bonus on miles flown w UA and two regional upgrades per year. Now the company has the nerve to tell me that nothing has changed except the name. I am now Premier Gold. however, as always, the devil is in the details. Bonus has been slashed to 50% and no regional upgrades. American also 20 or so years ago said I earned LIFETIME Platinum status. I will continue to get 100% bonus. This year AA gave me two system-wide upgrades. You will see me flying AA more now than UA, given this downgrade in benefits and the gall to say that “nothing has changed.”

  • Roseann Day

    I hope all the United staff working on March 3 got bonuses. It was rather chaotic at check-in and at the gates in the United Terminal at SFO Saturday. I had printed out my boarding pass the day before so I zipped through security and out to the gate. The lines for check-in and baggage check were unreal as were the looks of confusion among the gate personnel. It turns out new boarding passes were needed, which still didn’t seem to work as planned. I won’t even go into the boarding and take-off delays.

  • Marie

    Loyal for 20 years but in a lowly Premier status, I’m now told I can’t get a seat assignment in Economy Plus until check in at the airport. They could have at least put us in a middle seat assignment. No way will I purchase a ticket and not know where I’m sitting. No seat assignment–first to be bounced when the plane is full. Time to switch airlines !

  • Erik P

    Missing 13000 EQMs for 2012…continental unused tickets are being refunded v. Exchanged and new ticket purchased at full price…can”t get through on the phone lines…good times.

  • Ed Numrich

    With Glenn Tilton running the show, did any of you expect anything different than what is happening???

    He should have been a Wall Street banker wrapping himself in credit default swaps . . .

  • DaveS

    I spent three hours on hold and never did get through to anybody. Talk about incredibly terrible planning. I was ready to buy an international ticket on the spot. They can’t stay in business for long if they treat paying customers this way.

  • gogogo2

    Check your regional upgrade balance; mine didn’t transfer but I figure that I’ll wait a week or two for things to quiet down to try to sort it out. Also, I requested upgrades for two of us using regional upgrades in early February for a flight we took yesterday. They ended up breaking my wife’s reservation and mine into separate files. The result is that I got an upgrade (which I probably would have gotten anyway because of my status) and she didn’t get one because she is “only” Gold. That never happened before. When we used regional upgrades in the past, we either both got them or neither of us got them. BTW, I don’t know if this has happened to others, but they don’t seem to know my current status: in communications it’s been variously Gold, Platinum and 1K.

  • James M.

    No problems here. Lifetime total and balance correct. The most difficult part was logging into a dozen+ hotel and car rental websites and changing ALL my earning preferences to the new number (or, in most cases, simply leaving the number in place and selecting ‘United’ instead of ‘Continental’). One additional tip: if you use Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, etc., make sure you change your United number on their websites as well!

  • Mikis

    The whole part about Premiers only being able to book Economy Plus on check in and Bonus been slashed to 50% for Premier Gold really stinks. These proposed changes are enough to make me consider my 15 years of Premier Exec and to go to AA.

  • Former satisfied flyer

    Trying to purchase an international ticket online now is a nightmare. With the merger, it appears that online customers have lost the ability to see all the possible flights and possible connections. I am merely presented with a few options on a cumbersome web site.
    So far, not so good.
    The previous UAL web site worked. Not so now.

  • Dharris1

    The new website is the worst!!! Difficult to read and follow. Too bad they didn’t go with United’s old site. Bad mistake.

  • Sandra

    Terrible service, I got “Kathy from Chicago” on the phone after waiting a long time, only to get a condescending woman that treated me as if I was asking for a free ticket or something!. This is calling the premier priority desk listed, I am platinum but they should not treat anyone like this!. I never got bad customer service calling Continental Elite Desk or any other Continental customer service line for the past 10 years.

  • Frank

    The airlines will not rest until every flyer is pissed. United is indeed making great progress towards this endeavor.

    Somehow management luminaries don’t get it. Seems obfuscating, frustrating and even misleading your customers (telling them how much better things will be with the merger)are their marching orders.

    Have Mr.Smisek call in to his reservation center and be told the wait times are over 90 minutes. This was before the merger……should I keep going…….More Customer Surveys anyone?

  • J Katan

    Spent an hour on hold for an agent. Got an agent who couldn’t speak English well enough to understand a confirmation number. The site wasn’t allowing seat upgrades on check in for Premier members, so I had to call in and speak to this moron phone agent, who couldn’t get it right. Asked for a supervisor. Moron put me on hold then hung up on me. It will be faster and more efficient to drive to the airport and deal with this in person at the ticket counter. If this is United’s level of customer service, I am seriously considering changing airlines permanently.

  • Jack C

    Have never had a bad experience with the United website. I’m a million miler with United and have always been able to use miles for free tickets (both international and domestic flights) and this success continues. Just got six super saver tickets from SFO to Kauai for October travel. Thanks, United.

  • Sylvia

    Big problems trying to use United paper vouchers. I had 4 $100 vouchers for volunteering compensation. I did not have enough time to mail them in. None of the ticket agents at the airport knew how to use them. It took 45 minutes of them calling, being placed on hold, then walked through a complex process to finally get it right.

  • Lois

    I’ll join the chorus of premiers who have been thrown out with the trash. Those of us on the lowest elite level have long stayed loyal mainly because of the right to choose a premier economy seat when we book our tickets. If we’re now going to be forced to sit in the back, we might as well fly on other airlines. With the mob of higher-ranked elites on my last four flights fighting to be first in line, it’s obvious they’re going to grab all of the seats with extra leg room and the overhead space.
    Thanks United for pushing all of your formerly loyal fans to other airlines.

  • Matt R.

    Everything seems to have gone smoothly for my accounts – balances correct, no problems searching for flights, etc… I do pity anyone who had to fly or transact business on merger day.

  • ERK

    Well, the fun continues. Everytime you touch you find out something new.
    First surprise was thinking that the chaos was over when I tried to book flights for the family on March 5th. Web sight wouldn’t even take the booking and churned for 1+ hrs. Tried calling-was hung up on by the system 5 times before actually being put on hold. What a honor-except I stayed on hold until midnight and then hung up. Tried again the next day and sat on hold for 110 minutes before someone finally picked up.

    So today I tried to book the family vacation this summer only to find out that the awards program, as others indicated, has been totally overhauled to make it impossible to find what is now a “Super Saver Economy” flight. I started poking around to see exactly how far out I would have to book at this level-December is the first month that actually had 8 days that applied to the award level. Not to worry though-none of them are days you’d actually like to travel or would work.

    Now trying to decide on which airline to take my business to-work, family trips, credit card, everything.

  • j

    I’m still trying to get my miles back.

  • Terry L

    Today’s mail included my brand new UNITED CLUB identification card – with my old discontinued United Number. Clearly one hand is clueless about what the other is doing…unimpressive.

  • Eyecare

    This is now 2 months post “merger”. The Continental takeover of United has been pretty rocky from a longtime United 1K flier’s perspective. They elected to ditch the newer reservations system that United created (an later sold off and contracted) for Continental’s 40 year old system. Naturally, all the United reservations agents were stumpted and the transition was (and continues to be) rocky. Granted there are some nice aspects about Continental’s system, like being able to actually see open seats (when it’s accurate) but pretty much everything else has been a downgrade in customer experience.

    Both my wife and I are 1K but they keep splitting our tickets without telling us why. We like sitting together so why they would have to split our tickets is beyond me. We are notified much later than before about upgrades, especially on international flights. On our last trip from SYD>LAX we were upgraded at the gate after the last coach section boarded despite us being #1 & 2 on their upgrade list and there being at least 5 seats open on United’s mobile app in business while we were waiting. It didn’t appear that anyone behind us on that list was upgraded so where those “extra” seats went is beyond me. Using SWU passes used to automatically place us at the top of the upgrade list; now it is equivalent to using miles for upgrades. SWUs used to be doled out sparingly to top tier frequent fliers so it was a special bonus for us to use on selective flights where upgrades were most desireable (like lay flat seats on international flights).

    Overall, I haven’t been favorably impressed. I suppose one of the biggest problems is having many more people in the upper levels of the frequent flier program so there’s more competition for upgrade seats. Plus, United apparently gives out SWUs to businesses as well to add to this overload. My frustration level has been quite high.